Thousands protest against Trump in London but fewer than last year

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By Andrew MacAskill and Andrew R.C. Marshall

Demonstrators take part in a protest against U.S. President Donald Trump, in Trafalgar Square, London, Britain, June 4, 2019. REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne

LONDON (Reuters) – Thousands of people protested in central London on Tuesday against U.S. President Donald Trump’s pomp-laden state visit to Britain, but numbers were well down on the tens of thousands who gathered to oppose his visit last year.

Protesters shouted, banged drums and waved placards at what organizers called a “Carnival of Resistance” in Trafalgar Square while Prime Minister Theresa May was in talks with Trump a short distance away at her residence in Downing Street.

The leader of Britain’s opposition Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, was due to address the rally later on Tuesday.

Among Britons, Trump is one of the least-liked foreign leaders, with just 21% of people surveyed by YouGov having a “positive opinion” of him. Among women, that figure fell to 14%.

The tone at the protest was set by a large statue of Trump sitting on a golden lavatory with his trousers around his ankles, while placards read: “Trump stay out! We are quite capable of cocking up our own politics”, “Free Melania!” and “Lock him in the tower”.

“Trump is an ignorant, 70-year-old man who has lived a life of privilege,” said Anna Fenton, 23, a marketing manager from London carrying a sign reading “Ugh, where do I even start?”

Fenton said she was protesting to show solidarity with “people that Trump’s language and policies have harmed”, including women and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Eleven women dressed in red cloaks and white wimples as characters from Margaret Atwood’s dystopian novel The Handmaid’s Tale stood in silent protest outside the National Gallery.

The crowd, several thousand strong, was well down on the numbers who protested when Trump first visited Britain as president in July 2018.

There were small pockets of support. A few men wearing red caps with “Make America Great Again” walked among the crowd. Trump supporters said the protests against him were an insult to the leader of the United Kingdom’s most powerful ally.

TRUMP BABY BLIMP

A giant inflatable blimp depicting Trump as a sneering baby in a diaper flew outside the British parliament, remaining airborne as the president held talks with May.

Trump and his wife Melania arrived on Monday for a three-day state visit that included a banquet hosted by Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace on Monday evening.

Corbyn, who turned down an invitation to the banquet, said the protest rally was an “opportunity to stand in solidarity with those he’s attacked in America, around the world and in our own country”.

The protesters have been kept away from Trump, with roads closed around Buckingham Palace and Downing Street.

Trump said he was “loved” in Britain despite the protests. He said he was closer to Britain than any other American leader, citing his mother’s Scottish roots and the two golf courses he owns in the country.

“Tremendous crowds of well wishers and people that love our country,” he said in a tweet on Monday.

Slideshow (4 Images)

“Haven’t seen any protests yet, but I’m sure the Fake News will be working hard to find them. Great love all around.”

Opposition in Britain to Trump’s presidency has been stoked by his ban on travel to the United States from several mainly Muslim countries, his decision to quit a global deal on combating climate change, and his criticism of British politicians such as London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

($1 = 0.7910 pounds)

Reporting by Andrew MacAskill and Andrew Marshall, Writing by Paul Sandle; editing by Guy Faulconbridge and Gareth Jones

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